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First infant surrendered under Kentucky’s new ‘baby box’ law

A large metal door is embedded in the side of a brick wall. It has written instructions for surrendering a baby through the baby box.
John Boyle
A Safe Haven Baby Box in Clarksville, Indiana. The devices allow parents to anonymously surrender infants less than 30 days old.

An infant was surrendered to a baby box at a fire station in Bowling Green last week—the first instance since the implementation of Kentucky’s new law allowing people to anonymously surrender children less than 30 days old at locations around the state.

There are 16 Safe Haven Baby Boxes around the state. The devices, located on the exterior walls of fire stations, police stations and hospitals, are equipped to automatically alert staff when a baby is placed inside.

Monica Kelsey, the founder and CEO of Safe Haven Baby Boxes, said officials are looking to find a permanent home for the infant.

“We don’t know who came here and surrendered this child and that is the beauty of the baby box. The box allows 100% anonymity and that is exactly what that parent received here,” Kelsey said during a news conference last week.

The “newborn safety device” law unanimously passed the Republican-led Kentucky Legislature in 2021 was signed by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear.

According to Safe Haven Baby Boxes’ website, there are 134 such devices across the country, and 24 infants have been safely surrendered through the process.

Rep. Nancy Tate, a Republican from Brandenburg who sponsored the legislation in 2021, issued a statement saying she was saddened someone surrendered their baby, but trusted the child would be adopted into a safe home.

“It is crucial we support women at all stages of their pregnancy, and these boxes are just one option for a mother,” Tate wrote. “We are one step closer to ending infant abandonment across the commonwealth.”

Tate is an anti-abortion rights legislator whosponsored a sweeping package of abortion regulations that passed into law last year. She alsoco-sponsored the 2019 “trigger law” that outlawed abortion in nearly all cases in Kentucky after Roe v. Wade was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Though Kentucky’s near-total ban includes no exceptions for abortions in cases of rape, incest and nonviable pregnancies, Tate said the baby box law shows that “Kentucky values women and their families and we must continue offering ways of assistance for pregnant women.”

Support for this story was provided in part by the Jewish Heritage Fund.

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